What to do if you are being Sexually Harassed at Work
Sexual harassment in the workplace can make the victim feel powerless – professionally and personally. There are generally two forms of sexual harassment you should be familiar with:
- Quid pro quo – An employment decision is based on your submission to the sexual harassment.
- Hostile work environment – The sexual harassment makes your workplace environment uncomfortable, hostile, offensive, or intimidating.
What to Do if You are Being Sexually Harassed at Work
Each situation is different so take the steps that make sense in your particular circumstance.
- Consult your employee handbook to familiarize yourself with the existing sexual harassment policy, and follow it. Put your complaints in writing, take notes on the harassment and be specific. Keep track of details such as time, place, witnesses, and what was said or done.
- In hostile work environment cases, there is a chance the harasser may not even realize their conduct is offensive. Try to resolve the issue by letting the person know you find their behavior inappropriate and stressful for the work environment. In certain instances, this will resolve the matter. At the very least, you have made him or her aware that you find certain behavior uncomfortable. If the harassment persists, it may be time to escalate the matter.
- Discuss the harassment with your supervisor and give them details on the steps you have taken to address the issue thus far. If your supervisor is the harasser, speak to their manager, or make an appointment with your human resources department.
- If trying to address the problem internally has gotten you nowhere, you’ll next need to file an administrative charge with the appropriate governmental agency – likely the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your local human rights or civil rights enforcement agency. The designated agency will investigate your claim and try to resolve it with your employer. If they, too, cannot resolve your complaint, you will be issued a “right to sue” letter, allowing you to bring your case to court.
- Your civil lawsuit can revolve around injuries suffered due to the sexual harassment – these do not need to be physical. Most sexual harassment cases are based on the emotional injuries victims have been subjected to.
If your case is successful, you may win the right of reinstatement, back pay, damages for emotional stress, and the payment of your attorney’s fees and court costs to be taken from your settlement.
If addressing sexual harassment on your own seems daunting, consider having an attorney on your side to make the process more manageable. Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free consultation with a sexual harassment lawyer who can discuss your options.